The genres of Western and Science Fiction make strange bedfellows. These two couldn’t be more different. The Western setting is often limited to a county. Science Fiction can travel as far as a universe or two. The Western transportation is limited to a horse. Science Fiction transportation can include spaceships, flying cars and teleportation devices. In a nutshell, The Western is the frontier and Science Fiction is the pioneer. And yet, the genres are two sides of the same coin. They both can be stories about good guys shooting bad guys to save their worlds. They can be used to comment on current society. In some cases, Western’s and Sci-Fi can blend together such as the cult classic Firefly. This blend can be challenging as the storyteller has to figure out where the saddle ends and the spaceship begins.
If any medium can do it, it’s Anime. Writer Yousuke Kuroda and director Satoshi Nishimura prove this with Trigun, a rare sci-fi Western hybrid brilliant enough to rival Joss Whedon’s own Firefly. Based on the mangaby Yasuhiro Nightow, Trigun takes the Western genre, turns it on its ear and turns it back. Not before giving it a wet Willie.
Set in a desert scorched by two suns the show begins in a classic Western manner; where two barflies discuss a legend over a game of poker. The legend is Vash the Stampede (Johnny Yong Bosch aka “Kaneda” from Akira)also known as the humanoid typhoon, who single handedly leaves the town of July in ruins, resulting in a 60 billion double dollar price on his head. The barflies are interrupted by a giant boomerang that rips through the bar, slicing the building in half (it’s anime, don’t ask questions) and bullets tear the rest of it apart, leaving only a few terrified barkeeps and Vash himself, casually finishing his drink. Now bandits and bounty hunters have their guns aimed at his direction. Amongst them is Descartes (Joe Romersa), a giant with a punk green Mohawk, a mechanical arm and a boomerang sharp enough to slice a mountain in half.
Also on the hunt are Meryl Stryfe (Dorothy Fahm) and Milly Thompson (Lia Sargent). Meryl is a no-nonsense professional with a PR Smile and Milly is her tall, timid scatterbrain of an assistant who carries a Gatling gun as tall as Meryl. Guessing they are after the reward? Nope, they are actually trying to minimize the damage Vash causes. You see, they are representatives of Bernardelli Insurance Society, the insurance company unfortunate enough to cover Vash’s collateral damage. When it comes to anime action (and all action for that matter), major destruction is a given. But very few live action films address the collateral damage and address the cost. Besides this, Meryl and Milly are both very funny characters.
And then there’s Vash himself. From his introduction, he seems to be a serious hero along the lines of Neo, of the Matrix. He certainly has a memorable look with a red trench coat, yellow sunglasses and spikey blonde hair. He looks especially awesome when he’s aiming his gun at Descartes and his gang. Then, a few scenes later, he is buried neck deep in sand trying to hide from enemies. Underneath his hero persona, Vash is a lovable goofball. He can be compared to the likes of Captain Jack Sparrow, Martin Riggs and Ash Williams; heroes who walk the walk and talk the talk and yet seem to make fun of the hero persona. In one scene, he tricks a bandit into firing his full load on a wall, while using it to make a smiley face of himself. At one point, he munches on doughnuts while making haste. He even has time for a quip with a bandit:
Bandit: You have to die! It would sure make us all very happy if you do.
Vash: Sorry, I don’t do requests.
Throughout the episode, characters are given contradictory descriptions of Vash. It is suggested Vash implanted these to throw others off his scent. Due to this and his goofy personality, Meryl not only refuses to believe he’s Vash but mistakes Descartes for the human typhoon. Not wanting insurance agents hounding his every move, Vash would prefer to keep it that way.
The episode is a lot of fun with over the top action scenes, enjoyable characters and gorgeous animations. It manages to blend both Western and sci-fi to perfection, delivering the classic shootouts while riding some weird creature from a Star Wars movie. While making fun of it, Trigun can be seen as a love letter to the Western as a style, keeping the sun shining on its sheriff badge.
 Japanese term for graphic novel
 The type that sprays water in people’s faces.